When it comes to running a profitable veterinary clinic, one of the most important factors is efficiency. When everyone on the team is working to the best of their ability and optimizing their time most effectively, things will run more smoothly. As a result, your staff will be happier and your clients will enjoy much more enhanced service. Of course, saying this is important and actually achieving it are two entirely different things. Let’s explore a few expert strategies to turn your practice into a highly-efficient, highly profitable operation.
Delegate to your team.
If the doctors in your clinic are handling tasks like data collection and filling out paperwork, it’s not necessarily the most efficient use of their time and expertise. These duties would be much better handled by your well-trained veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and administrative staff. The work will be completed faster and the doctors will be freed up to focus their time and effort on patient care.
One important thing to note about delegation – it’s something that should be done thoughtfully. In other words, you shouldn’t simply dump your excess work on untrained team members. Doing so will not only negate the goal of better efficiency, but it could negatively impact both employee and client satisfaction. To delegate successfully, you must carefully select the right individual for each task and ensure that they are adequately trained and properly equipped to perform the duty well.
Develop and implement processes.
Former Toyota executive and respected business leader Fujio Cho wisely said, “We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes – while our competitors get average or worse results from brilliant people managing broken processes.”
Nothing in business should be left to chance, and the veterinary industry is no exception to this rule. If your team is not operating under a system of best practices, then there’s a good chance they are wasting a tremendous amount of valuable time. Some tasks could be needlessly being replicated while others could be slipping through the cracks entirely. To prevent this, you should develop and establish processes for every area of your practice – from the front desk to the back office and everywhere in between.
Ask your team to work with you to determine the best way of carrying out each task and workflow, then document those processes. Don’t forget to make them available so that everyone can readily access the information they need at any time.
One thing to note is that while processes are essential, they shouldn’t always be set in stone. Be flexible and willing to modify and optimize when and where necessary. And, of course, if a particular process is no longer serving its purpose, don’t be afraid to scrap it altogether.
In a busy veterinary practice, keeping everything in sync can be quite the challenge. This is why communication is so critical. Written communication may take the form of tickets, slips and order forms. Beyond this, verbal and even non-verbal communication are also essential. For instance, verbal confirmation can ensure that instructions have been heard and are understood.
With non-verbal communication, you can get a little bit more creative. For example, some practices install light fixtures outside of each exam room. When the doctor is wrapping up, he or she can simply flip the switch to light up the fixture, indicating that the visit is coming to a close and the assistant or tech should be ready to come in and finish up.
In today’s day and age, digital communication is also an effective tool for keeping a practice running smoothly. For instance, keeping up-to-date electronic patient records and a system where doctors and technicians can take notes and send instructions to other team members, such as lab tests or prescription information. All of this can save time and make for a much smoother and more efficient experience for everyone involved.
Automate whenever and wherever possible.
Automation is one of the most impactful technologies of our time, and it’s something that far too few veterinary clinics take advantage of. There are lots of tasks and workflows that could be shifted from your human employees to artificial intelligence. A few that come to mind quickly include scheduling, appointment reminders and prescription refills. If you are not already doing so, you would be wise to consider adopting some type of automation tool.
If this feels like too much of an expense, we suggest spending a week tracking all of the tasks that your team performs on a day to day basis. Then, assign a time allocation to each of these tasks. Let’s say your front desk spends 5 hours a week on appointment reminders and another 3 hours processing prescription refill requests. Now, multiply the hourly rate you are paying that staff member by those hours. Seeing how much you are paying talented staff members to do menial, repetitive tasks can really put things into perspective and make justifying the investment in automation much easier.
Adopt time management practices.
Some people are naturally more organized than others. If you or others on your team tend to struggle in this area, adopting and/or honing your time management skills should be at the top of your list of priorities. Even the best processes in the world can end up being inefficient if the person carrying them out isn’t optimizing his or her time.
Start by eliminating distractions as much as possible. Establish policies that keep employees from being interrupted when they should be focusing on work. Designating a block of time each day to check email or return calls, for instance, can do wonders for keeping everyone on task. If you are a practice owner or practice manager, employing proven strategies, such as the Pomodoro Technique, can help you apply your time and skills most effectively.
Lastly, incorporate some time management into your scheduling. Sticking as close to appointment times as possible will not only make the day go more smoothly, but it’ll keep your clients and patients happier. Work in extra time in advance for things like filling out paperwork so that the time spent in the exam room can be optimized and productive.
Making your practice more efficient isn’t something that will happen overnight, but with the right approach, attitude and strategies, it’s something that can certainly be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. The five tips listed above should provide a good foundation for becoming more efficient, more profitable and ultimately more successful.